As you will be aware, last week the Government published the Article 50 Bill, and it was debated over two days in the House of Commons this week.
The vote on triggering Article 50 represented a difficult decision for every MP, especially for those like myself who campaigned and voted to remain in the European Union.
The Labour Party voted in favour of the European Union Referendum Act in 2015, which paved the way for the referendum to take place, and all of us who campaigned knew the outcome would be decisive.
A majority of voters – both here in Wales and across the UK as whole – opted to leave the European Union. I believe it is important to respect this democratic decision, and not block the Article 50 negotiations. Therefore I voted to allow the triggering of Article 50 following the second reading of the Bill.
However, I am clear that does not mean giving the Government a blank cheque to enact a damaging Brexit, and Labour will be seeking to make important amendments to the Bill in Parliament next week when it enters its committee stage.
Whilst the British people voted to leave the EU, it seems clear to me that no one in Newport East was voting for watered-down rights at work, less protection for our natural environment, or economic harm to British industries and workers whose livelihoods rely on trade with the EU.
Labour has proposed targeted amendments in the following key areas:
1. To allow for a meaningful vote in the House of Commons on the final Brexit deal;
2. To establish a number of broad principles the Government must seek to negotiate with regard to, protecting workers’ rights and securing full tariff and impediment-free access to the Single Market;
3. To ensure the Government must seek to retain all existing EU tax avoidance and evasion measures post-Brexit;
4. To require the Government to report to the House of Commons at regular intervals on the progress of Brexit negotiations;
5. To guarantee legal rights for EU nationals living in the UK before Brexit negotiations begin;
6. To require the Government to consult regularly with the governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland;
7. To require the Government to publish any impact assessment that has been carried out on the potential impact of leaving the Single Market and Customs Union. A separate amendment would ensure that any new relationship with the EU must be accompanied by an Equality Impact Assessment.
Since the result of the referendum last June, the Government has failed to address concerns about what leaving the European Union will mean in practice. Now is the time for proper scrutiny and accountability, as we know that the Article 50 Bill will represent the start rather than the end of the Brexit process. We are leaving the EU, but we need to ensure we leave in the right way.
Please rest assured that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to hold the Government to account every step of the way, and will do all we can to ensure we get a Brexit deal that works for the people of Newport East, Wales and the UK.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any queries or concerns on this or any other matter.